On the day of the session, Twerp is continually approached and makes no effort to deflect any of the visitors my way. He might have easily said “This is my equal co-author, she can tell you all about this…”, but he didn’t. After he had taken five visitors questions, I started to fume and told him he needed to leave, to which he agreed. We spent two more awkward days together, and he NEVER offered an apology and I feel utterly backstabbed because we were friendly until this incident, grabbing coffee in the mornings, etc. Is this finally a taste of the cut-throat academia? Maybe the congenial atmosphere of my lab was just an exception up until this point?
Today, it has been exactly two weeks since the conference. I confronted him, and he offered no apology or admittance of wrongdoing whatsoever and was snarky and sarcastic to me throughout the conversation. I told him I would have to tell our advisor what has happened and ensure that at the next conference I get to have all presentation time. Do you think this is the right call? I don’t want to be childish. How do I get through these next 3-4 years when he sits five feet away from me and the very sight of him makes my blood boil!!? — Grad School Woes
What you experienced was not a taste of cut-throat academia; it was a taste of the way the work world works. Whether you work in the Academy or sell insurance for a living, you are constantly in competition with your colleagues. You’re in competition for promotions, clients, bonuses, better schedules, better offices, raises, etc., etc. That doesn’t mean that the competition has to rule your work relationships or that you can’t be congenial with your colleagues, but it does mean that you have to watch your back, stand up for yourself, and always, ALWAYS look out for Numero Uno because no one else will as well as you can.
This experience was also an important lesson — or reminder — that as a woman in a world and, especially, a field, that is run predominantly by men, you HAVE to be assertive. You can’t just hand over a title or a position or an opportunity that you have just as much right to “to be generous.” Men don’t do that. And you shouldn’t either. What you do is fight for it. Or flip for it. Or figure out some negotiating tactics so that if you do hand over an opportunity that is equally yours, you get something in return. Maybe: “I’ll let you present at the conference, but I want to be listed as first author.” Or something like that. Don’t ever, ever, ever give up a career opportunity that brings you nothing in return “to be generous.” That’s just stupid. And don’t ever make an assumption that your generosity will be remembered and will help you some time down the line. If you’re giving something away in hopes of creating an alliance that will prove beneficial to you in the future, then think about what you hope that person may be able to offer you or do for you, and make that hope known. (There’s still no guarantee that you’ll get what you hope for, so be smart about using this particular negotiating tactic). And read: “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” for more career advice.
As for how you’ll get through the next 3-4 years sitting five feet away from this guy who failed to pass a few session questions your way during one of your first conferences, think of this as a lesson in how the real world works. Most people sit a few feet away from a co-worker they don’t like. And the way they deal with it is by being cordial at the office and then blowing off steam at happy hour or at the gym or on the weekends with their friends.
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